West Coast report + Plastics Special
live in the greater LA area. ‘So there is
consumption and there are big scrap
volumes,’ Daviduk explains. ‘All of
what we process here is sourced in
Unwanted items such as sledgehammers or stuffed animals are filtered out on the sorting line.
Engineers fix teething troubles with the smart technology.
Southern California. Also, California
has good (state) collection systems and
laws which of course help develop a
proper recycling infrastructure.’
The rPlanet Earth facility can process
up to 38 000 tonnes of food and bev-
erage packaging per year, meeting
growing demand for ‘a much-needed’
domestic processor of US recovered
There is indeed a huge PET recycling
potential waiting to be explored. Each
year, in the USA alone, some 2.7 mil-
lion tonnes of PET is produced, of
which 29% is collected. Only 150 000
tonnes, or less than 20% of the 800
000 tonnes of collected PET bottles is
going into new bottles, according to
TOWARDS MORE RECYCLING
‘Very few facilities do PET,’ he says.
‘Given that the beverage industry has
set ambitious goals towards use of
recycled content in their packaging, it
is crucial to expand recycling capaci-
ty,’ he argues.
‘A big player like Nestlé wants 100%
recycled material in their packaging
by 2025, Pepsi aims for 35%. But to
get there, you simply need better col-
lection systems, more plants and
FROM SCRAP TO PREFORMS
The LA plant offers a closed-loop pro-
cess, taking PET bales and converting
them into bottle preforms, extruded
sheet and thermoform packaging.
rPlanet Earth’s director of mainte-
nance and engineering Andrew Lopez
takes me on a tour of the immense
halls: ‘It’s exciting to be involved in a
pioneering project and start-up opera-
tion,’ he says while passing the first
CEAN, CLEANER, CLEANEST
The plant interior reveals a series of
sorting, washing and decontamination
lines. Krones of Germany supplied a
bottle-grade flake production system,
including the Bulk Handling Systems’
(BHS) front-end bottle sorting system.
The BHS purification system processes
more than six tonnes of baled post-
consumer PET an hour and runs nearly
Material undergoes extensive separa-
tion and cleaning procedures, grind-
ing the plastic into flakes and washing
and decontaminating the scrap input.
This raises the intrinsic viscosity of the
material in accordance with end-use
requirements. The result is food-grade
sheet, thermoformed containers and
injection moulded preforms for bot-
Five NRT optical sorters with In-Flight
Sorting technology remove metals,
mixed plastics and coloured PET. ‘We
only want colourless PET,’ says Lopez.
The Max-AI AQC-2, a robotic sorter,
uses a camera and two robots for the
quality control. Aluminium, ferrous
metals and mixed plastics are recov-
ered for recycling by other processors.
Each decontamination silo can handle
up to 1.5 tonnes of material per hour
while the washing line has an hourly
output of three tonnes.
‘We really are a technology company,’
says ceo Bob Daviduk. ‘rPlanet Earth
has brought technology to bear on
the way that post-consumer PET is
WHY SHIP AIR?
rPlanet Earth’s end-products – pre-
dominantly preforms and plastic sheet
– go to beverage, food and cosmetics
producers. So why not make the bot-
tles on site at rPlanet Earth? ‘Makes
Engineering and maintenance director Andrew Lopez (right) and Mac
Schlicher, the company’s new process engineer.
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